Haircuts for Youth in the University District

Haircuts_132802Meet Teen Feed’s newest volunteer and style aficionado, Sharalee!

Every two weeks, she donates her skills as a barber for University District youth in need.

Sharalee brings her own personal equipment, her exceptional talent, and her very big heart to each and every session.

Having studied Psychology before pursuing a hairdressing career, Sharalee had always intended to give back to her community. “It’s been really great so far,” says Sharalee.  “It’s something these youth need, and it’s something I can give.”

And when she arrives, the sign-up sheet fills up very quickly with youth eager to have their hair professionally styled free of charge.

“Regular haircuts are not only really important for self-esteem,” says Teen Feed Support Coordinator, Ximena. “For many of the youth we serve, haircuts are necessary for successful job interviews and ongoing employment.”

There is definitely a need here in the University District, and we’re so grateful to Sharalee for meeting it.

Sharalee cuts hair professionally at Rudy’s Barbershop on University Way NE in Seattle.

Volunteer Spotlight: Nate Whitson


Nate started at Teen Feed in March 2014.  Calm, laid-back, and very approachable, Nate volunteers as an Advocate every Wednesday night, building strong relationships and trust with the youth we serve. Born and raised in Federal Way and educated at the University of Washington in Seattle, Nate spent a summer in San Francisco as an intern after college.  His favorite hobbies include backpacking and working on a classic car with his dad.  These were important factors that brought him back to Seattle, where he has lived ever since.

Join us as we celebrate Nate in our Volunteer Spotlight!

When did you start at Teen Feed?  What inspired you to volunteer with us?

One of my colleagues, who had been a Volunteer Advocate for over a year, suggested that I look into Teen Feed.  She really sold it as a good organization to work for and be a part of.  She told me that if a guest wants to get very personal and you are comfortable getting personal and discussing life, politics, and happenings, you can do that.  And for me that was something that was really interesting.  That’s pretty unique to have that type of opportunity, from a people perspective.  And that’s why Advocates are there —just, from person to person, somebody to confide in a little bit.  That was exciting to me.  So, not only did it fit into my schedule, it sounded like really good fit.

What was your impression of Teen Feed when you started?

I was really nervous.  I thought it would be kind of hectic.  I found myself thinking that I would be really impersonal or something with guests.  I wasn’t expecting them to be as laid-back as many of them are: happy to be there, happy to chat, and happy to have a meal with volunteers and staff.

Obviously, those were misconceptions, because it turned into being a very relaxed environment — kind of free-flowing.  It’s a nice environment to spend time in. I didn’t foresee that.

Early on I attended The Ropes training, which was run by Teen Feed staff members.  It really opened my eyes to some of the day to day struggles that guests go through. When you are meeting them on a week to week basis it’s hard to put those experiences into an idea of what an entire day looks like. You’ll get an off-hand event here and there, but at The Ropes they give you an idea of what a day could be like, you know, from the perspective of the guests who we work with.

We love food here at Teen Feed.  What did you eat today?

Breakfast is always exactly the same for me, which is weird — waffles with peanut butter and honey.  For lunch today I had Pad Thai with tofu, from a food truck in South Lake Union. It was my first time trying it.  I walked through the cross street close to my work, looked to my right, and was like, “I might as well try that today.”  I’d go back.  It’s close. Two blocks away from my work.

How does volunteering at Teen Feed affect other parts of your life?

Living in Capitol Hill, I have a lot of exposure to a community of folks that have unstable housing or who might identify as homeless altogether.  Prior to volunteering at Teen Feed, I hadn’t talked with anyone in those communities who struggle with some of the issues that they struggle with. As a volunteer, your perspective changes.  I’m less judgmental than I might have been in college and in the first couple years out of college.  I’m much more likely to stop and talk to somebody.  A lot of people in that community appreciate being acknowledged and being talked to on a person-to-person level.  A lot of the time they don’t get that — the respect, I guess.

What is your favorite meal you have had at Teen Feed?

I personally like the bean and rice burritos that come with salsa and chips.  That’s kind of up my alley.  I think that’s the University Congregational United Church of Christ Meal Team.  I think they’re probably the meal team tonight, actually.  When you volunteer on the same night every week, you get into a consistent group with four or five meal teams.

What advice would you give to new volunteers?

I’d suggest you shadow a veteran Advocate when you first start.  Sit back and get that Advocate’s opinion on how they open conversations. A lot of Advocates look at it differently from one person to the other.  So really finding your comfort level and the way that you want to engage with youth or guests is important.  It definitely takes a couple weeks for that to happen.  I would also say, don’t get discouraged, if you get blown off or somebody you’re talking to is having a bad day.  That is something that is very normal for somebody that’s in such a stressful situation.  They might just want to keep to themselves over the meal.  I realize that as an Advocate, I could probably find myself in those same shoes once a week— just being upset with something and not wanting to talk to people.  But yeah, shadowing an Advocate and having the perspective that it’s nothing personal. It’s just the way things go sometimes.

Is there anything else about your experience that you would like to share?

I would say.  I’m very thankful that I got involved.  And I think the trainings that were offered and what the staff did to help onboard me as an Advocate was really top-notch.  They’re just a super friendly bunch and very easy to work with. What’s interesting is that the people that you meet that are also working as Advocates or working as case manager staff, they’re just great people to meet, network with, and be around on a weekly basis.  That creates the good environment that Teen Feed strives for.

United We Serve: MLK Day Volunteers at Work!

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, January 19, 2015 marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday created to honor the incredible life and legacy of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. In the spirit of giving back, four generous volunteer groups chose to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day by cleaning up three industrial-sized kitchens that Teen Feed uses to serve homeless and unstably-housed youth and young adults, including Thursday’s Count Us In site!

Starbucks WS   Dawg Daze WS
The incredible Starbucks Hard at work! (above)   University of Washington’s Dawg Days team! (above)
Carlson Learning Center WS    HRC WS
UW’s Carlson Leadership and Public
                      Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Seattle team!
Service Center team!

Teen Feed provides meals and support to young people 365 days a year. Periodic deep cleaning of the sites we operate from is a necessary task that improves the experience of our meal team volunteers, helps our in-kind site partners keep their space in top shape, and – most importantly – creates a welcoming experience for the young people whom we serve.

Thanks to the hard work of each one of these amazing groups, we’re better able to provide meals and support to homeless and unstably-housed youth in our community! We’re so grateful for their time and energy and for the sparkling, clean kitchens they left behind!

Click here or reach us at to learn more about volunteering at Teen Feed.

Volunteer Spotlight: Geneva


Starting their life journey in Bellevue, Washington, Geneva spent some time in West Palm Beach, Florida, before returning to the Pacific Northwest and becoming a valued member of the Teen Feed family.

Since day one, Geneva has been an upbeat, positive, and welcoming presence at Teen Feed and, on Tuesdays when they volunteer, they are often seen running to catch folks on their way out the door in an effort to connect with them before they leave.

Please join us in celebrating Geneva as our January Spotlight!

When did you start at Teen Feed? What inspired you to volunteer with us?

The first Thursday of July, I went to First Thursday art walk with Elena (an ally volunteer). Elena said she needed to be somewhere at 6:30pm to volunteer for an organization called Teen Feed. I said I could take her and would come back later to take her home when the meal was over. I walked Elena to the door and met the Meal Coordinator, Chris, who invited me to stay and check it out. So I did, and here I am.

Please note: Geneva’s first visit to Teen Feed coincided with the Meal Program’s summer “Bring a Buddy” program for advocates and allies. Under normal circumstances, unscheduled volunteer drop-ins are not permitted. Please email Chris Pearson, Meal Program Coordinator, for more information.

What was your impression of Teen Feed when you started?

It shared a lot of my values about being kind to people, and it was neat that there was a resource like this in the University District. I didn’t know organizations like this existed here.

We love food here at Teen Feed. What did you eat today?

I ate a gluten free waffle with a ton of what might have been almond butter, and a big cup of coffee. Then I had cream of broccoli soup which is not my normal lunch.

How does volunteering at Teen Feed affect other parts of your life?

It makes me want to bring other people to volunteer with Teen Feed, because it is a great program, and I think community service is important.

What is your favorite meal you have at Teen Feed?

The vegan meatball sub! It was so good. I remember thinking that it was the most delicious fake meat that I have ever had!

What advice would give to new volunteers?

Set boundaries, and be yourself. Don’t stress out. Just relax, but remember that boundaries are really important.

Is there anything else about your experience that you would like to share?

I really love the other advocates and allies. They are a great support network. When you volunteer at Teen Feed, you gain a group of friends who will care about you as adamantly as we care about the youth who come through the doors.


Youth Wishes for the New Year!

The start of the new year brings news beginnings and a chance for a fresh start! Teen Feed’s Support Coordinators took time to connect with youth to ask them what their wish is for the coming year. Our intention is to inspire youth to think past today and dream about their futures. It also helps us to identify ways in which we can guide these resilient, remarkable, and hopeful young people to lean forward into their new beginnings. It is our privilege to share a selection of youth wishes for 2015.


is for everyone in the world to be happy
is that I get housing
is for me to get my life together
is for my partner and I to be healthy and have no more injuries
is for people to not be so ignorant
is that I have sobriety
is that I have a solid living environment & employment
is for stability
is for success for me and for others
is that I get traditional housing
is that my boyfriend and I would work out
is that there will be better things to come for me
is that the people taking care of me are doing good
is that people would stop being stupid
is that I am able to get into school
is that I am able to pay my own rent
is that I am able to stay off the streets
is to have a chance to see my family
is for me to be clean
is for me to be able to do more creative problem solving
is for me to be working
is for me to become self-sufficient
is for me to become twice what I am right now
is that I can continue moving forward with my life
is for me to do no more self-harm
is for me to finally put heroin behind me
is for me to find a major purpose
is that I find a place to live
is that I find steady work
is for me to get a job and my GED
is to get a job
is for me to get into school
to for me to get a job and have peace
is for me to get my family back
is for me to get my own house
that I graduate with good grades
is get the off the streets
is for me to have a place in the world
to have a boyfriend
is for me to have a place and to actually have my son
is that I have a stable job and a place to live… very stable
is to inspire my family
is that I can just be happy
is that I keep my apartment
is that I can make an actual difference in the things we see are wrong as a society
is that I can make it through next year
that I can quit smoking
is that I can start a new life
is for me to start and complete college
is for me to have a permanent place to live
to stay in school
is that my personal life goes better
for me to have a new change

Thank you for making new beginnings possible for youth in need at Teen Feed.
To make a 100% tax-deductible gift in support of this important work, click here.
For questions about Teen Feed or the youth we serve, please reach Suzanne Sullivan at 206.949.1092 or

Christmas Cheer at Teen Feed!

christmas tryptic
The Christmas holidays are a time when many gather with families and celebrate good cheer.
For many youth on the streets, the family they celebrate with is Teen Feed.
In true Teen Feed style, and with the help of some special friends, we planned
special holiday treats for young people. Check out the activities and pictures below!

  • Christmas Eve Meal – Shout out to the Kavamata Meal Team of the Litov Family and Friends for creating a festive meal complete with goodie bags! Their delicious home-cooking, basic needs item goodie bags, treats, and warm company helped make youth at Teen Feed felt cared for.
  • Christmas Morning Dick’s Outreach – Every year, Teen Feed embarks on a special street outreach to connect with youth on the streets on Christmas morning. Armed with 250 warm Dick’s burgers and Teen Feed meal info, our outreach team connected with youth in the local parks and public space of Seattle’s University District. The team was met with by smiles,  deep gratitude, and even some cheers! Huge thanks to Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants for making this possible.
  • CHRISTMAS DAY MEAL – Our good friends at Etta’s and Seatown Seabar & Rotisserie Restaurants brought their culinary talents to the Teen Feed’s table for Christmas dinner. An annual tradition, these fine folks from Tom Douglas Restaurants whipped up an amazing chicken pot pie feast making a festive occasion for all the youth and volunteers in attendance. Youth also received amazing warm clothing, blankets and gloves and more from Zumiez and incredible basic needs items stockings from the Coast Guard Auxiliary!
Special Thanks To Our Incredible Partners:

Kavamata Meal team, The Litov Family, Seatown Seabar & Rotisserie, Etta’s Restaurant, Zumiez, and Coast Guard Auxiliary, Dick’s DriveIn RestaurantsUniversity Congregational Church, and our incredible volunteers for creating a family-like holiday celebration for young people with nowhere else to turn.

Teen Feed's ED Tabitha Jensen gets into the spirit of outreach STOP's Andrew and volunteer Nate prepare to hit the streets to hand out Dick's burgers The Kavamata Meal team hard at work peeling potatoes Team Kavamata working hard Pumpkin pie is at the ready Generous volunteers hard at work Teen Feed's Coordinator Chris shares infromation about the youth we serve before program starts Teen Feed's Tabitha goofs off before helping hand out special gift bags to youth Meal service begins! Heaping helpings of home cooking made the season bright! Lots of smiles in the Teen Feed kitchen The Etta's Seatown Family getting ready to serve their pot pie feast on Christmas Day!

UDSPA Holiday Party for Youth a Success!

On Monday, December 8, 2014, the University District Service Providers Alliance (UDSPA) came together to host an Annual Holiday Party for the youth we serve! The event combined silly costumes, holiday decorations, and a home cooked meal prepared by the Bastyr University Meal Team and special desserts, courtesy of UW Advancement. And thanks to an outpouring of generous support from individual community members, each of the 125 youth who attended also received a gift card to fulfill a holiday wish! 

The Holiday Party offers the warmth of family and the holidays and, for most of the youth we serve, will be the only one they have this year. So, thank you.  The party would not have been possible without the community’s support.  By doing so, you sent a clear message that you care for and support homeless youth as they work hard to change their lives.

Thank you for making this difficult time of year a little bit brighter for the homeless young people we serve! Should you have any questions, please reach our coordinators at or call 206.949.1092.

Click Here for photos from the event.


2014 Holiday Runner


Happy Holidays!
The University District Service Providers Alliance (UDSPA) agencies,

UDSPA logo

Volunteer Spotlight: Janet Himstead

wp_ss_20140507_0007Janet Himstead grew up in New Jersey and found herself in Seattle after living in California for 12 years and also spending some time in Jamaica. Janet and her daughter, Geneva, volunteer as advocates on Wednesday nights.

Typically you will find Janet offering to take on any job that will help make the night run smoothly for our guests, often joining meal teams who need help without being asked.

Please join us in celebrating Janet as this month’s Volunteer Spotlight!

When did you start at Teen Feed? What inspired you to volunteer with us?

I started in July of this year. What inspired me was Geneva, and just being able to give back. I have always felt like I have been lucky.  Cheesy I know.

What was your impression of Teen Feed when you started?

I was amazed at how many guests took advantage of the program. I wasn’t really aware of the situation in Seattle, especially with youth. My first night, I was both excited and nervous. I shadowed Nate Whitson (advocate). The tone of the meal was quiet, but reassuring, in that this was a good place to be and a good way for me to help.

We love food here at Teen Feed. What did you eat today?

Biscuits and sausage gravy with pickled jalapeños and a drip coffee. Food is important, another reason why Teen Feed was a good choice for me. I started cooking at ten because there was not enough food in the house. I could open the refrigerator and see all the food in it, because there wasn’t that much. So I learned to cook and share food with people as a gift. Coming to Teen Feed is important to me, because I am able to share that gift of food and having community with people. The one time of day you can have a break from the craziness and enjoy yourself. Some of my favorite Teen Feed moments have been when I have helped out meal teams and have been able to cook for our guests.

How does volunteering at Teen Feed affect other parts of your life?

It’s made me so much more aware that everybody is not what they seem. We all have a backstory, and, while I don’t need to know that backstory, it’s good to know that there is one.

What is your favorite meal you have at Teen Feed?

I don’t usually eat when I am at Teen Feed.

What advice would give to new volunteers?

Be yourself. Don’t hold back, and be able to gauge your audience. I am obviously a mom; it’s written all over me.  And I am a mom to everyone. I was afraid the guests would reject me for that. I think it’s been helpful for guests to see that Geneva is my daughter and that some adults are good. The biggest advice I have is to do this! Volunteer with Teen Feed and take the time to develop relationships that you would otherwise not develop.

Is there anything else about your experience that you would like to share?

I am so grateful that I decided to volunteer with Teen Feed, and will continue to for as long as we can.


Message from Tabitha Jensen: Make the Season *Bright* for Youth in Need

Tabitha Headshot

Tabitha Jensen, Teen Feed Executive Director

Dear Friends,

The Teen Feed team has been maintaining a safety net for more homeless, street-involved and food insecure youth in Seattle and King County than ever before, welcoming over 800 unduplicated youth through our doors and serving over 20,000 meals to date this year. We are incredibly grateful for individuals like you, who help make meals, support, basic needs items, and a caring community available for youth in need 365 days a year.

I have a favor to ask of you… As you gather around many tables this season, celebrating family, togetherness, and bounty, I encourage you to think of the youth and young adults at Teen Feed working hard for their futures.  The Teen Feed table is where youth have their needs met, share their hopes and fears, talk through their problems, and celebrate their successes. At Teen Feed, youth are learning to how to make good choices and create a better life for themselves, one warm meal at a time.

I am inspired by a letter I recently received from the parent of a former Teen Feed guest. She writes: “Know you are very important and your work counts…because of you [my son] had an evening meal – you were his Mom when I couldn’t be.”

Thanks to you, Teen Feed is family to youth who have no one else to turn to. We invite you to make a direct and positive impact in the lives of young people this season!

  • Basic Needs Black Friday – Include youth in your holiday gift list on-line or in stores on the biggest shopping day of the year! Click here for a list of basic needs and more info.
  • Holiday Gift Cards for YouthMake the season bright by fulfilling a youth’s $40 holiday gift request. The gift cards will be wrapped and handed out individually to each youth at the 2014 UDSPA Holiday Party for Youth. Click here to learn more.
  •  Make a Gift to Teen Feed – We need your help to meet the needs of an increasing number of youth 365 days a year. Your 100% tax-deductible donation will make a difference in the lives of youth who need it the most. Click here to get started.
  • Give the Gift of Teen Feed Give the gift of hope this season by donating to Teen Feed on behalf of a loved one. We will send a special card to you or the recipients of your choice, recognizing the gift and its impact, to be accompanied by an inspirational youth story.  Donate online and reach Suzanne Sullivan at or 206.949.1092 to arrange the details of your holiday card.

On behalf of the Teen Feed family, we wish you and yours a holiday season FULL of love, celebration, connectedness, and hope! If you have any questions about our programs or how you can make a more significant impact, I welcome you to reach me at or 206.522.4366.

Tabitha Signature

Tabitha Jensen
Executive Director
Teen Feed

PS) Please share this message with anyone who may want to support youth in need this season. Thanks! 


Sock & Basic Needs Item Drives for Youth!

Teen Feed works to offer basic needs items and daily essential to help homeless youth care for themselves. Teen Feed distributes basic needs items to youth at the nightly meal program, during street outreach, and in our office as youth access support coordination.

Teen Feed works to offer basic needs items and daily essential to help homeless youth  care for themselves. Teen Feed distributes basic needs items to youth at the nightly meal program, during street outreach, and in our office as youth access support coordination.

We rely on your help to provide basic needs items to the youth we see every day! Please consider holding a supply drive for youth. A supply drive may be collecting coats and sleeping bags at your office, home or social group, or sending an email to friends requesting travel toiletries. Whatever a supply drive may look like to you, know you are providing youth the daily essentials they desperately need. We have included downloadable signage and resources to help you with with your Sock or Basic Needs Drives.

Basic Needs Drive Resources:
Basic Needs Items for Youth:

Click Here for our Basic Needs Amazon Wishlist

Travel Sized toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner
Combs and brushes
Dental Floss
Hand Sanitizer
Tampons & pads
Nail Clippers
African American hair-care products

New Socks – all sizes
Gloves, hats, scarves
Disposable hand warmers
Hooded sweatshirts (L to XXXL, dark colors)
Warm coats
New underwear/boxers
Bras – all sizes

Other necessities:
Sleeping bags
Batteries – AA, AAA
Battery operated alarm clocks
Travel-sized sewing kits
Work boots
Bus tickets
Dry dog and cat food
Hot Cocoa
Instant Oatmeal
Powder Creamer

Donation Drop-Off Schedule

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30pm to 6:15pm, University Congregation Church – 4515 16th Ave NE (@NE 45th), prior to the Teen Feed meal program. Donation contact: Chris, 206.229.0813,

Need help? We are happy to create something custom for your group! Please reach Suzanne Sullivan at or 206.949.1092 for more information.